July 3, 2022

Thrive Insider

Exclusive stories of successful entrepreneurs

Anne Miles Managing Director Suits&Sneakers

Who are you and what business did you start?

I’m Anne Miles, founder of Suits&Sneakers, a global roster of over 17,000 marketing, media and advertising talent who are pre-approved as the top of the industry.

What’s your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?

After seeing 5 top advertising talent being retrenched from a multi-national ad agency across their global offices I got so annoyed at the industry’s ageism that I decided to start a business that collected up the top talent across the industry and put them all under the one roof. I surveyed hundreds of marketers and found out they want the best talent and feel that their current agencies don’t understand their business and don’t have category experience, and they also believed that the best talent wasn’t available in the traditional agencies any more. The issue is that they’re hard to find. So, Suits&Sneakers was born!

It is a harmful stereotype to think that just because you turn 40 that you can’t be creative any more and in fact many of us are more creative and at the absolute top of our game. The consumer out there is not all in their 20’s and super hip and cool in any case, so the ad industry is not operating with equality.

My personal mission on earth is to remove all negative stereotypes from our media and marketing including the way we work. I do this many ways including providing access to a diverse talent base, but also re-educating the industry with free talks, content on Suits&Sneakers.tv and educational content through articles, blogging and LinkedIn. I’m also calling on the Government to intervene in the failing self-regulation systems.

Describe the process of launching the business.

Suits&Sneakers was born in my 50’s when I felt that I was pretty much unemployable in my industry, not just because of the bias against age but because of the male domination and discrimination that I wouldn’t put up with any more. I started Suits&Sneakers with debt behind me, and had to pull the business together super fast! I had to get smart about it and broke all the conventional thinking about LinkedIn as a social media channel and used it to get $3M in sales opportunities in my first 6 months. Suits&Sneakers also went on to become a winner of Westpac’s 200 Businesses of Tomorrow in my first year. It has been an incredible journey and even during COVID times, this year has been a record year.

Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?

Suits&Sneakers is a totally agnostic business with no vested interest in any one approach and so we triage to see exactly what the business needs without prior bias. Unlike an ad agency that is selling what they do, we work on what you actually need and pull the right team together from talent with category and industry specialisation. A creative who I challenged for being off brief once said to me ‘Who are you? The marketing police?!’ After the initial feeling of being highly offended I decided to really own that title and do see myself in that role now. We facilitate a sound process and protect both sides equally with objectivity which is very disruptive in my industry.

Winning some awards for the business model has been a bit stepping stone for a successful start. Being ethical, conscious capitalists and agnostic is really what has made Suits&Sneakers work as a value proposition but on the tactical side it is really all due to LinkedIn.

LinkedIn can be abused these days and also many treat it like Facebook only swap out the content to be business oriented which is a flawed approach unless you are working on employee brand and engagement. To drive business I believe it needs to be a combination of brand conversion, content marketing, account based marketing, PR, sales processes and some operational steps to help ease the load. As a result, I’ve become a private coach and trainer for people wanting LinkedIn for account based marketing strategies and business development (and not just a social media channel for likes/shares that don’t convert).

How are you doing today and what does the future look like?

Because the business model is so new and different we do get people confusing us with advertising agencies because the talent in the roster do everything that an agency, design studio, VFX house, photography studio or production house would, but we support agencies too, as a talent pool. We’re agnostic and facilitate without bias to anyone in the industry that needs the best talent. Luckily smaller to medium businesses who want to take charge of their marketing in-house are the early adopters as well as smaller agencies wanting to offer more diverse income streams or do their own marketing.

Luckily the award bodies have noticed what we’re doing and recognised us with a few awards of late:

Winner Westpac 200 Businesses of Tomorrow 2018
– Finalist in B&T Women In Media: Entrepreneur of the Year 2019
– Finalist for AMI Certified Marketing Practitioner of the Year 2019 – Vic and National Finalist
– Finalist for AMI Certified Marketing Practitioner of the Year 2020 – Vic and National Finalist
– Finalist B&T Women In Media: Champion of Change 2021
– Finalist B&T Women In Media: Social Change Maker 2021
– Finalist B&T Best of the Best: Social Change Maker 2021
– Finalist B&T Best of the Best: Entrepreneur of the Year 2021
– Finalist B&T Award for Diversity – Champion 2021
– Finalist for AMI Certified Marketing Practitioner of the Year 2021 – Vic Finalist

The talent roster has grown to over 17,000 talent now but any role is hand-picked for the brief.

We’ve had a record year despite COVID lockdown hitting over 260 days.

We’re still fairly small in the scheme of things but big ambitions to be a global resource. Scaling with some technology to speed up the recruitment process is nearly complete as a minimum viable product and that will help with efficiencies over the coming months.

Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?

Being an entrepreneur and starting a business on your own with no cash reserves is a hard slog but I’ve had to learn how to make a pipeline of sales opportunities. Some of that required me to stand up and be seen for what I believe in. That’s difficult for someone that has always been a behind the scenes worker and supporting other people to become successful and awarded, not me personally. It was uncomfortable to put myself ‘out there’ but I’ve had to learn to ‘get over myself!’ because I have a lot of people in my roster who needs me to step up on their behalf. Since finding the courage to stand up for my community and what I believe in I’ve discovered a network of such supportive people I’d consider friends now and never even met many of them in person. I’m very grateful for that.

What platform/tools do you use for your business?

Suits&Sneakers is very tech reliant! There are so many systems but the key ones that the business just cannot operate without includes Monday.com for supervision of projects going through the business. We have all the talent and client on Monday.com and supervise communication and the approval process to be sure the scope is met and the quality is met. Monday.com is embedded in our terms of trading and allows us to release funds when approved milestones have been met. It is a very easy to use system and all the tasks and campaigns can be managed transparently.

The other deal-breaker technology is LinkedIn for new business and lead generation. If it wasn’t for LinkedIn I wouldn’t have a business. I’ve grown my connections to around 18,000 and most are very highly qualified as potential leads or refer work to the network.

Zoom is critical for meetings these days as well and I produce the Suits&Sneakers.tv content via zoom as well these days. I never imagined this would be the case in the past, having started my career as a top industry advertising producer! Content doesn’t have to be totally slick to be of real value to an audience these days.

InDesign is a key part of pulling presentations together and presenting the talent. I’m self-taught but can’t really cope with using Canva or Powerpoint for this kind of work, although do use those from time to time. I can live without those two but cannot live without InDesign.

My own wireless server is probably the number one thing that I cannot work without and I don’t regard Dropbox and Google Drive highly, with technical issues I don’t trust. Dropbox is a trap for larger users where you cannot back up and cannot download large projects and you will become trapped there for your whole life with monthly fees to pay. It is a known issue for Dropbox and they are not fixing it for high end users. Our next big tech upgrade will be creating our own secure NAS drive for cloud access more reliably than we currently have now we’re scaling and multiple teams are needing access.

What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?

I’m one of these people who doesn’t have one single hero that I follow and admire, but learn constantly from different people on topics I decide I want to explore. Funny enough I learn more from creating my own with Suits&Sneakers.tv as the people I interview teach me the most cutting edge points of view on marketing. I gain so much out of these and just love doing it. https://suitsandsneakers.tv/

I am a vacuum for learning and at least an hour a day is spent learning something. I have multiple things on the go at all times including some personal stuff, depending on whether I’m working, walking or waking. Here is my current reading/learning list for this week:

Conscious Loving – Gay and Kathlyn Hendricks. This is useful for committed relationships regardless if it is personal or work relationships, and being accountable for your own shit.

The Courage to be Disliked by Fumitake Koga and Ichiro Kishimi. This is a blend of philosophy and Adlerian Psychology and challenges conventional thinking to see the world in new ways to accept what you can’t change, impact what you can and to bring a new perspective for appreciating the moment.

Podcast: The Performance Code by Kylee Stone. Great women leaders shaking up the world and inspiring me to keep going with my own advocacy work. https://www.theperformancecode.co/podcast

Webinars: The Australian Marketing Institute have a number of webinars on marketing. I do also follow what Adobe is doing. I have a special interest in turning intellectual property and knowledge into digital products and been investing time in learning more about different technologies. This month ON24 have had some good webinars on webinars: https://www.on24.com/resources/upcoming-webinars-apac/

Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?

Get what you stand for and what your message is sorted out first. This is brand strategy work that is often forgotten, and graphic designers are not qualified to do typically. This is a massive missing link across the industry of marketing and people jump into building things without a sound structure in place.

Where can we go to learn more?

LinkedIn is the best place to find me: https://www.linkedin.com/in/creativebuyer/